On Tuesday during the latest UNESCO World Heritage Committee held in Fuzhou, China, the organisation added Iran’s Hawraman/Uramanat cultural landscape to its list of world heritage sites.
1. Hawraman/Uramanat cultural landscape
The Hawraman/Uramanat cultural landscape site is located on the slopes of Sarvabad county and shared between the Kurdistan and Kermanshah provinces. The villages are unique in that the rural area embraces many dense and step-like rows of houses in such a way that the roof of each house forms the yard of the upper one, making it a special sight to see. The remote and mountainous landscape of Hawraman/Uramanat bears testimony to the traditional culture of the Hawrami people, an agropastoral Kurdish tribe that has inhabited the region since about 3000 BCE. The property, at the heart of the Zagros Mountains along the western border of Iran, encompasses two components, the Central-Eastern Valley (Zhaverud and Takht, in Kurdistan Province) and the Western Valley (Lahun, in Kermanshah Province).
The mode of human habitation in these two valleys has been adapted over millennia to the rough mountainous environment. Tiered steep-slope planning and architecture, gardening on dry-stone terraces, livestock breeding, and seasonal vertical migration are among the distinctive features of the local culture and life of the semi-nomadic Hawrami people who dwell in lowlands and highlands during different seasons of each year. Their uninterrupted presence in the landscape, which is also characterised by exceptional biodiversity and endemism, is evidenced by stone tools, caves and rock shelters, mounds, remnants of permanent and temporary settlement sites, and workshops, cemeteries, roads, villages, castles, and more. The 12 villages included in the property illustrate the Hawrami people’s evolving responses to the scarcity of productive land in their mountainous environment through the millennia.
2. Preparation for inscription and impact for tourism
The site has been undergoing preparations in its aim to gain a place on the prestigious list, and last September, Hessam Mahdi, the representative of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), said the case for its inscription had been well prepared, stating he was “impressed” by the status of the rural landscape. Following of a visit to the western province of Kermanshah he said, “I am proud of being chosen to assess the case and traveling to Iran as I could visit the local people in the region.”
Local officials hope that the news will jumpstart tourism in the region as well as being a conservation tool to better preserve its natural landscapes and unique cultural scenes for future generations. They see the site’s unique rural texture, architecture, lifestyle, and agriculture as a prominent example of the integration of human beings into nature. The Islamic Republic in general expects to see a tourism boost from its numerous tourist spots such as bazaars, museums, mosques, bridges, bathhouses, madrasas, mausoleums, churches, towers, and mansions, 26 of which are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Under Iran’s 2025 Tourism Vision Plan, the country aims to increase the number of tourist arrivals from 4.8 million in 2014 to 20 million in 2025. According to latest available data, eight million tourists visited during the first ten months of the past Iranian calendar year, which ended March 20th.